NBC Blasts Netanyahu Ahead of His 'Controversial Speech' to Congress

Introducing a one-sided report on Monday's NBC Today that featured no criticism of President Obama, co-host Savannah Guthrie proclaimed: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived ahead of a controversial speech to Congress tomorrow. And that visit at the invitation of Republicans is threatening to further strain the Obama administration's relations with Israel."

Correspondent Andrea Mitchell emphasized how unwelcome Netanyhu was for the White House: "Arriving in Washington without fanfare late Sunday, Israel's prime minister is at the center of a political firestorm. Shunned by the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State for coming to lobby Congress against a nuclear deal with Iran without prior notice to the White House, only two weeks before Israel's election."

The office of House Speaker John Boehner disputes the assertion that prior notice was not given to the White House: "On the morning of January 21, after notifying the administration, the Speaker issued the invitation to the Prime Minister and announced it to the public....The Prime Minister graciously accepted the invitation and asked to speak on March 3, when he will already be in Washington for the AIPAC conference."

Mitchell didn't bother to mention that explanation from the Speaker's office.

Instead, she focused on parroting White House talking points: "President Obama and Netanyahu have crossed swords before, but this marks a low point in the relationship....A crisis the White House blames squarely on Israel's leader." A soundbite followed of National Security Advisor Susan Rice ranting: "There has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship."

Not a single soundbite was included of any Republican supporting Netanyahu or a clip of Netanyahu himself criticizing Obama's Iran negotiations.

Mitchell wrapped up the segment: "More than thirty Democratic members of Congress say that they will not attend Netanyahu's speech to Congress and Vice President Biden, who has clashed with Netanyahu in the past, is going to be even farther away, he's going to be in Guatemala."

As if Mitchell's hit piece on the Israeli leader wasn't enough, weatherman Al Roker seized an opportunity to take another cheap shot at Netanyahu during the weather forecast minutes later: "This is Washington, D.C. Look at the White House, notice something in front of it. We've got this camera that always shows it. Icicles. I mean, this is really crazy stuff. Man, you would think Benjamin Netanyahu got there early."

Sunday's Today ran a nearly identical report on the "controversy" from White House correspondent Kristen Welker. However, unlike Mitchell's segment, Welker did mange to squeeze in a brief clip of Boehner voicing support for Netanyahu: "The American people and both parties in Congress have always stood with Israel. Nothing and no one should get in the way of that."

In contrast to Monday's Today, CBS This Morning and ABC's Good Morning America managed to provide some balance while covering Netanyahu's U.S. visit. On This Morning, White House correspondent Major Garrett gave time to Obama's critics:

MAJOR GARRETT: Israel says the U.S. plan would leave too much nuclear technology intact. Iran, Netanyahu says, must be denied the capability to make a bomb....In a Face the Nation exclusive, House Speaker John Boehner said he did not regret inviting Netanyahu to speak without White House consent.

JOHN BOEHNER: What I do wonder is why the White House feels threatened because the Congress wants to support Israel and wants to hear what a trusted ally has to say.

On GMA, Stephanopoulos described Netanyahu's upcoming address as "The latest salvo in his contentious relationship with President Obama," but also noted that the Israeli prime minister was planning to "push back against a possible U.S. nuclear deal with Iran now being negotiated by Secretary of State John Kerry."

White House correspondent Jon Karl outlined Netanyahu's objections: "Netanyahu is adamantly opposed to the deal that President Obama is now trying to strike with the Iranians on their nuclear program and he will use that speech before Congress to warn if that deal is struck it will allow Iran to get dangerously close to getting a nuclear weapon."

Here is a full transcript of Mitchell's March 2 report on Today:

7:09 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: In Washington now, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has arrived ahead of a controversial speech to Congress tomorrow. And that visit at the invitation of Republicans is threatening to further strain the Obama administration's relations with Israel. Andrea Mitchell is NBC's chief foreign affairs correspondent, she's following this for us. Andrea, good morning to you.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Netanyahu Visit Sparks Controversy; Tensions High as Israeli PM Arrives in DC]  

ANDREA MITCHELL: Good morning, Savannah. Prime Minister Netanyahu is under fire from the White House and from some of Israel's Democratic allies in Congress for his high-profile campaign against a nuclear deal with Iran.

Arriving in Washington without fanfare late Sunday, Israel's prime minister is at the center of a political firestorm. Shunned by the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State for coming to lobby Congress against a nuclear deal with Iran without prior notice to the White House, only two weeks before Israel's election.

JOHN KERRY: Obviously it was odd , if not unique, that we learned of it from the Speaker of the House and that the administration was not included in this process.

MITCHELL: John Kerry is in Switzerland today, pointedly continuing the nuclear talks with Iran while Netanyahu addresses Congress tomorrow.

Before leaving Tel Aviv, Netanyahu called the trip a "crucial" and even "historic" mission. But nearly 200 of Israel's former top military leaders criticized him for creating a rift with the U.S., which they say could even make a deal with Iran more likely.

President Obama and Netanyahu have crossed swords before, but this marks a low point in the relationship.

AARON DAVID MILLER [WOODROW WILSON INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR SCHOLARS]: I think this is really pushing close to being the worst dysfunctional relationship between an American president and an Israeli prime minister that we've seen in the modern period.

MITCHELL: A crisis the White House blames squarely on Israel's leader.

SUSAN RICE: There has now been injected a degree of partisanship, which is not only unfortunate, I think it's destructive of the fabric of the relationship.

MITCHELL: More than thirty Democratic members of Congress say that they will not attend Netanyahu's speech to Congress and Vice President Biden, who has clashed with Netanyahu in the past, is going to be even farther away, he's going to be in Guatemala. Matt and Savannah.

GUTHRIE: Alright, Andrea Mitchell in Washington, thank you.

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